MSL and medical sales coach

Real strategies for landing MSL and Medical Sales jobs

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MSL Resume Writing Services

job search pictureIt seems that I am contacted almost daily by aspiring MSLs asking for “tips” on how to write a resume that will get them noticed by a recruiter or through the automated computer screening process.  Developing a resume for the MSL role is a complex process with multiple factors impacting the effectiveness of it.  Understanding the MSL role (not just the job description) is essential.  The next element is understanding how a candidate’s background will translate to the skills needed for the MSL role.  A good resume will serve as a template for the information discussed during the interview.  Beyond content there are other considerations such as format, key words, and the application process.

I have over 10 years of experience developing resumes and coaching candidates into MSL positions and no two candidates are alike.  It is important that a candidate highlight their unique features as they relate to the MSL role.  We have recently updated our website to offer additional information to assist Medical Science Liaison candidates.  Visit to learn more about the resume writing and job search process.

Elizabeth Danford

MSL Resume Writer and Job Search Coach



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Aspiring MSLs – Tips for effective resume writing

MSL Blog - resume blocksI am asked almost daily for “tips” on writing resumes for the MSL role and how to overcome the challenge of not having existing MSL experience. The job search and interview process is complicated and impacted by many factors. It is a process, and there are no shortcuts. Your resume is the foundation for your job search. It will have a direct impact on every aspect of your search.

The views I share on resume writing, the job search, and interview process are based on my first-hand experiences with what generates results for aspiring MSLs. Recently three of my coaching clients landed their first MSL jobs. Each candidate had a different background, but no industry experience.  Their successful job search started with having their resume revised so that it highlighted their strengths and expertise as it relates to the MSL role.  Academic CVs should be converted to professional resumes.

Step one is to understand the role, not just what the job description says.  Every company uses their MSL teams slightly differently.  Be aware of the different types of focus MSLs may have based on the company’s size and strategic objectives.  Yes, you will build relationships with KOLs, but what is the point of those relationships?

Next you will need to look at your background objectively. What are your differentiators from other PhDs, MDs, and PharmDs as they relate to the MSL role? Differentiators equate to your special features. Experience in areas like clinical research, managed care, protocol development, clinical education, and specific therapeutic expertise are some of the features candidates may possess.

The format of your resume matters. Is it too complicated and laid out like a puzzle?  Will the reader have to search to put the pieces together? If you make someone work to understand your background they will likely move on to the next resume. Keep it basic and straightforward. Complicated formats are distracting and confusing.

My goal is to keep job history content to two pages if possible. Publications and presentations can be included on additional pages. There is no universal rule for how long a resume should be, but too much detail can be as detrimental as a lack of detail.  A resume is not meant to replace the interview.

A well-developed resume will help you in the interview process. Initial interviews last 20 – 30 minutes. If you spend 15 to 20 minutes trying to explain your background because your resume is confusing, you will not finish answering all the interview questions.

Questions about your job search challenges? Ask Elizabeth, the MSL job search specialist, resume writer, and interview coach.

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More job search Q & A for aspiring MSLs – What is your biggest weakness?

blog - weakness pictureBehavioral interviews are tough. The questions can seem vague and deciding what types of examples to use when answering can be challenging. During interview preparation sessions I find one particular question causes anxiety for even the most confident of candidates. The question – What is your biggest weakness? Why is it so scary? I find that most people view it as a trap. Why do they ask that question? It is really not a trap at all. Everyone has weaknesses. It is important to understand what constitutes a weakness before approaching how to answer the question. I view a weakness as a trait a person possesses that could negatively impact how you perform the job. Most weaknesses are not necessarily deal breakers (although some are depending on the role). To prevent a weakness from hurting your job performance it is important to recognize the weakness and demonstrate how you manage it. The weakness that a person is not aware of or does not acknowledge is the weakness that will hurt them. So own your weakness, state it clearly, and then state how you manage the weakness so that it does not negatively impact your job performance. Be prepared to give an example if asked for one. Avoid trying the old method of using a positive as a weakness such as “I work too hard”. Hiring managers are smarter than that.

Do you have a topic you would like to see covered? Please post and I will try to cover it in a future discussion.
Elizabeth Danford, MSL resume writer, interview coach, and job search strategist

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Should aspiring MSLs target large or small companies to land their first MSL job?

Blog - bullseye2016 has barely begun and it is already proving to be a busy year for MSL hiring. Two of my MSL coaching clients accepted MSL positions over the last week. Based on the high level of interview activity, the strong hiring trend will continue. I am frequently asked if there are certain companies more likely to hire MSLs with no experience. Finding that first MSL job would certainly be easier if there was a simple answer to that question. In looking back at 2015 I had clients accept positions at many of the major pharmaceutical companies as well as small biotech companies. Each company has a different set of needs when it comes to what they look for in MSLs. There will always be roles that require an experienced MSL with specific expertise, but in general I find most companies are willing to hire and train new MSLs because they view the MSL role as key and worth the investment to grow the right person. What makes someone the right person? That is going to vary based on each company and what they need from their MSL team. No one person is going to be the right candidate for every company or job. Last year a major pharma company expanded their field medical affairs team to support the launch of a new cancer drug. Two of my clients interviewed for oncology MSL positions in different regions. They interviewed the same day and met most of the same team members. They both received (and accepted) job offers. The two candidates could not have been more different. One was a Ph.D. with academic research experience and the other was a M.D. with clinical practice experience and some oncology research. The job description for the jobs they accepted was identical. It is situations like this that demonstrate how difficult it is to assign a “type” to a company. The reason companies use behavioral based interviews is to identify the traits a candidate possesses that will make them a good match for the role, the team, and the company overall. I recommend that aspiring MSLs keep their search broad. The type of company you fit best with may surprise you.

Elizabeth Danford, MSL resume writer, interview coach, and job search strategist

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Job search guidance for aspiring MSLs

Landing your first MSL job as an aspiring MSL can seem like a daunting challenge.  You know other people have succeeded in landing MSL jobs with no prior experience, but you find yourself submitting resumes into a black hole.  You have networked, pleaded with peers, written compelling cover letters, and still receive immediate rejections after completing job applications online.  What next?  There are more effective ways to submit your resume that will lead to real results.  Change your job search strategy and you will change the results.  Quit spending hours filling out applications.  Send your resume to actual hiring managers. “Launching your MSL Career – the Job Search Guidebook” provides step by step instructions on how to identify hiring managers, find their emails, and send your resume in a professional manner that will get results. The MSL Job Search Guidebook will provide insight into what a well written professional resume looks like, an understanding of the interview process, and help you identify companies that hire MSLs with no prior experience.  Developed by well known MSL resume writer and job search coach Elizabeth Danford, it is an essential tool for aspiring MSLs serious about their job search.
“Launching your MSL Career” is being offered through the month of January at a discounted price to support your job search goals.  Download the PDF file when you check-out, no waiting to start your new job search.


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Q & A on how to land your first MSL role with no experience

Blog - person with questionAsk Elizabeth – Q & A on how to land your first MSL role

As a specialized MSL job search coach, I am frequently asked for tips on how to break into the MSL role. Most aspiring MSLs face similar challenges: No MSL experience, getting past recruiters / HR, finding entry level jobs, and struggling through interviews if you land them. I have the benefit of seeing what works in the job search and who gets hired since I coach clients from the first step, writing an effective resume, to the final step, the interview and job offer. My plan is to make this discussion part of an ongoing series and address a couple of questions each week. My responses are based on what I see in the current job market.

Question – How many pages should my resume / CV be?

Answer – There is no set rule on length, but my target is two pages of job related content with additional pages containing publications and presentations as needed. I do recommend using a professional resume as opposed to an academic CV. The resume should outline your experience as well as highlight areas that may relate to the MSL role.

Question – Job postings almost always list existing MSL experience as a requirement, where can I find entry level MSL jobs?

Answer – Companies have to develop baseline standards for job postings and that usually includes existing MSL experience. That does not mean that the candidates who are hired for the position actually have experience. As a matter of fact, I can attest to the fact that companies do hire MSLs with no experience, even if the job posted states experience as a requirement. There will always be specific jobs where a higher level of existing expertise and experience is required in that role, but that is not the case for every job posted.

Question – Do companies train new MSLs?

Answer – Yes, companies train new and experienced MSLs. All newly hired MSLs go through a structured training program specific to each company. It is normally a combination of home study, in-house training (most likely with other MSLs new to the company), and ongoing field training.

Do you have specific questions regarding the MSL role or job search process? Email Elizabeth Danford specializes in MSL resume writing, job search coaching, and interview preparation. She is the co-author of “Launching your MLS Career – the job search guidebook” which is available at


What are the backgrounds of MSLs being hired with no MSL experience?

MSL blog question markOne of the questions I am asked most often is what companies look for when hiring new MSLs. Is there one specific skill you can add to your resume that will guaranty you interviews? As a job search coach I have the unique perspective of seeing who ACTUALLY gets hired, what companies are hiring them, and what the interview process truly entails. What I am about to say may come as a surprise to many, but the reality is there is “no secret sauce”. While the MSL role is similar from company to company, what a company looks for in the backgrounds of MSL candidates can vary greatly. Over the last few weeks interview and hiring activity for MSLs has been exceptionally high. When I review the backgrounds of the candidates getting interviews, they are all very diverse. They include a Pharm.D. with clinical pharmacy experience, a Pharm.D. with retail pharmacy experience, a Ph.D. with two years of postdoc experience, a Ph.D. with clinical study experience, a Ph.D. with biotech industry experience, a M.D. with clinical practice experience, and a M.D. with research experience. In one case the same company interviewed a Ph.D. with all academic research experience and a M.D. with clinical practice experience on the same day. Both MSL candidates received job offers (for different territories). The candidates could not have been more different, but both fit with what the company was looking for.

Companies use a behavioral interview process to identify traits in a candidate that fit best with the MSL role. They will train a candidate on how to do the job, building from your clinical or scientific background combined with your aptitude and specific personality traits. The MSL interview process is extensive and designed to demonstrate not only your technical expertise and communication skills but also your strategic thought process, drive, focus, ethics, and collaborative abilities. Being a great scientist will not guaranty success as a MSL and companies know this.

Always keep in mind that no single candidate is going to be right for every company, but you only need to be the right candidate for one company. There are jobs within companies that will require experience, but most companies have extensive MSL training programs and will hire and train the right candidate.

What are your job search challenges? Ask Elizabeth, the MSL job search specialist, resume writer, and interview coach.